Finals Bound: Men’s and women’s basketball teams to host SCAC Championships after decisive semifinal wins

Men’s team to face St. Thomas while women’s team hosts Colorado College

Over the weekend, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams won their semifinal games after hosting — a perk earned by being seeded number one in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) Championships. Both teams played Austin College, with the men winning 80-68 and the women winning 70-60.

The Tigers now head to the SCAC finals, hoping to end their seasons as conference champions. The men’s team will host the University of St. Thomas, while the women’s team hosts Colorado College — both the second seeds in their respective SCAC Championships.

“Getting a win with this team is always a great feeling. We were able to overcome a challenging first half and we bounced back really well. It was great to get this important win, but I know we are all looking forward to taking on our next challenge,” said senior point guard Jordan Rudd, who this past week was named the SCAC Women’s Basketball Defensive Player of the Year.

Senior point guard Jordan Rudd floats up a shot against Austin College. Rudd was named the SCAC Women’s Basketball Defensive Player of the Year. Photo by Kate Nuelle.

Jimmy Smith, head men’s basketball coach, expressed how proud he is that his team continues to find ways to win throughout this unique spring season.

“It is really hard to win 10 games in a row, particularly in a season in which you are playing the same team twice in 24 hours. Our starters have been solid for us all year but our depth off the bench has been huge,” Smith said.

The similarities in the men’s and women’s teams don’t stop at the finals. Both teams will also be looking for revenge in their respective title games. As Smith mentioned, the men’s team has rattled off 10 consecutive victories, but they will be playing St. Thomas, the only team to have beaten them so far this year.

Meanwhile, the women’s team will face off against Colorado College, the team that handed Trinity their only two losses of the regular season. According to Hill, the team is very aware of the upcoming rematch but ultimately have to focus more on themselves than their opponents.

“We just need to be us. Honestly, Colorado is the perfect opponent for us to complete this incredible experience,” Hill said. “They have had a great season. They have really good players and they are really well coached. And, they did come in here and beat us, twice. I can promise you that our players won’t forget that as we narrow our focus upon this one last run ‘Together!’”

Junior Kaleb Jenkins, who was recently named SCAC Men’s Basketball Player of Year, made clear how excited the team is to face St. Thomas again.

“We split with them at the very beginning of the season and now we will be able to settle who is the better team. Both teams have a lot more experience under our belts after the season so it should really be a fun one to watch,” Jenkins said. “Our mindset going into this championship game is pretty much just leave it all on the court. You don’t get an opportunity like this very often so we know that we just have to execute, keep doing what we’ve been doing all season long, and make this one count.”

Sophomore guard Kaleb Jenkins dribbles past an Austin College defender. Jenkins earned the title of SCAC Men’s Basketball Player of the Year. Photo by Kate Nuelle.

In typical years, the SCAC Championships all take place in one location and on one weekend. This year, however, each round has taken place on different weekends and in the gyms of the higher seeds to prevent too many teams being in the same location during the pandemic. While it’s been an adjustment, according to both coaches, the extra time has also been a blessing.

“As a coach, it is nice to have the week to prepare for each game but it definitely is a different feel. The conference tournament is usually buzzing with excitement because all of the teams in the conference are there together. All in all, we are just really happy for the opportunity to still be playing,” Smith said.

Hill shared a similar sentiment.

“The week-long prep is something that I love. It gives us a chance to go through our process of taking care of us first, then focusing on our opponent. It’s exciting to play three or four games in a weekend, but I am very grateful for the extra time with these girls. I’m not sure they would say the same, because we do practice hard, but for me it has been a gift,” Hill said.

The gratitude and excitement of simply having a chance to play and continue being with teammates is evident across the team.

“Understanding that this final will be the last game of the season is bittersweet, and as a senior, I really just feel grateful for the time and team that I have been blessed with here at Trinity,” Rudd said.

It’s clear that Rudd embodies the sense of teamwork that Hill has worked hard to instill in his team. When asked about being named SCAC Defensive Player of the Year, she explained how above all else, the award was a team accomplishment.

“I attribute [the award] to the hard work and dedication of our entire program. I cannot imagine a more team-oriented award and it just goes to show how great this team really is. We make each other better everyday and support each other on and off the court. This award does not belong to me, it belongs to this team. And in that case, I feel it was very well deserved,” Rudd said.

All the time and effort put in by both basketball teams to be able to play their seasons now comes down to one final game. The women’s team faces Colorado College at 1 p.m. and the men’s team plays later at 4 p.m. against St. Thomas. While both games are closed to the public due to COVID-19, they can be streamed on Tiger Network.